by user Jsas03

Over the past two years the New York Mets have made major changes in an attempt to solidify themselves as World Series contenders. Unfortunately last year a drought in August kept the team out of the post season, but with the additions of Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner, and Paul Lo Duca the Mets are looking to dethrone the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. Let's take a look at how realisitic the Mets chances are by breaking the team down into four sub-categories based upon defensive roles; starting pitchers, infielders, outfielder's and the bull pen.

It has often been said that a potent lineup will win you games, but the team with the best rotation will win a World Series Ring. The Mets are currently struggling with their starting rotation. Last year the rotation was greatly improved by the addition of Pedro Martinez, along with Kris Benson's first and final full season as a Met. By the end of the season, it was considered the deepest spot on their roster, unfortunately since December they have traded away much of that depth in favor of bullpen help. This is a questionable process in itself, as a surplus of starting pitching must be considered a higher value then a surplus of relief pitching. To be a closer you have to have a certain mentality, one in which you can immediately wipe out the previous night's performance, so in all due respect they will be excluded from the category of relief pitching. But the majority of relief pitchers at some point in their career were unable to continue their starting roles and were destined for the bullpen. So had Jae Seo, Kris Benson, Victor Zambrano, or Aaron Heilman saw the bullpen I would've been more comfortable with that then Duaner Sanchez or Jorge Julio. Trading for a set up man was questionable in the Seo for Sanchez deal, but the Benson Julio deal was over the top unless of course, the salary was cut in order to have flexibility for acquiring someone such as Barry Zito.

Pedro Martinez is a solidified ace and would be considered the ace in nearly every rotation in the major leagues. His recent toe injury is serious enough to keep him away from Opening Day, but he is on pace to pitch in the third game of that initial series. When healthy Pedro is nearly unhittable, as he is able to change speeds, with such ease while keeping his motion fluent. Although in his older age, his fastball is not as dominating as it once was, he is still able to thrive off of it. While the fastball tops out in the low 90's his change up serves as his strike out pitch. He throws a circle change that fools both right handers and left handers, and keeps hitters off balance. Unfortunately hitters have learned to stay alive by fouling off border line pitches and increasing his pitch count. Pedro has had some stamina problems in the past and with this toe injury it might be now or never for him to win one in New York. This problem arouse as a result of the way in which he would push off the rubber and then land. With a 2.82 ERA his record of 15-8 was not a true representation of how well he pitched last year. Martinez would spark the crowd, and often turn things around for the Mets. At 34 years old his best is behind him, but if Pedro remains healthy, look for another solid season.

At 39 years old, time is expiring on Tom Glavine. Glavine who at times, anchored our rotation last year finished the season off strong, with a 5-4 record in his final 10 games with an impressive 1.79 ERA. Glavine has always been synonymous with control and no matter how old he gets, control will not be a problem. Although his fastball rarely approaches the high 80's his two seam fastball has a lot of movement, and he supplements this with a dangerous change up. Although he clearly left his best days behind him in Atlanta Glavine seems dedicated to bringing success to New York. Glavine held right handers to a .263 average last year and finished with a 13-13 record. Again for Glavine run support was often an issue as he had a 3.53 ERA which is a better indication of how he pitched. Since the institution of Questec Glavine has not been able to thrive off the outside corners of the plate as he use to with Atlanta, but Peterson is attempting to get Glavine back into the mind set. As long as Glavine pitches comparably to the rest of his hall of fame career he should be a solid number two. Glavine will be the Opening Day pitcher, and in order for things to start off right, he must wipe out his previous Met Opener.

This is where the rotation gets tricky. At the turn of the New Year we were plugging in Kris Benson here, and then Steve Trachsel 4 and that was a much more formidable rotation then we have now. Trachsel is now the number three pitcher, but with his back problems last year do we know how durable he truly is? Trachsel went 1-4 last year as he returned to the rotation in August finishing off with a 4.14 ERA. He was most impressive in his first start back as he went 8 innings against the Giants holding them to two hits and no runs for his lone win of the season. At stretches in 2004 Trachsel was our best pitcher and has proven he can get it done. When healthy Trachsel can truly eat up innings as he is able tolast at least 6 in nearly every outing. With a very slow approach, it causes hitters to become impatient in the batters box, as well as fans to become impatient in the stands. Trachsel has solid command, often throwing first pitch strikes, and he does not believe in wasting pitches. Trachsel is not a strike out pitcher and entices opponents to put the ball in play by painting the corners perfectly. Although Trachsel has only one winning season with the Mets his record hovers around .500 and his ERA around 4.00. Again if the lineup proves to be potent look for a 12-15 win season out of Trachsel which is solid for a number 3 starter.

Next up every one's favorite Victor Zambrano. Met fans are particularly impatient with Zambrano, mainly because he was brought over here in exchange for top pitching prospect Scott Kazmir right after the '04 All Star Break. The Mets saw untapped potential in Zambrano which happens to remain untapped. His resume includes some filthy pitches, as he has fastball that is consistently in the low 90's, a solid changeup and a slider that moves, but he is unable to control these pitches. Zambrano often gets behind hitters, which leads to many walks. Last year he walked 77 batters in his 166 innings pitched. At times Zambrano showed this potential such as his 8 inning performance against Arizona in which he allowed 1 run, on 5 hits, 3 walks, while striking out 5. Opponents only hit .264 against him last season and for his career he has held opponents to a .247 average, but unfortunately his control issues come back to haunt him as many of the batters he walk score. Peterson once proclaimed he could fix Zambrano in a matter, of minutes maybe this year his minute will come. As for now if Zambrano wins 8-12 games it will be a success, Let's hope so.

The 5th and final rotation spot is still up for grabs, but right now the front runner for the fans has beenAaron Heilman but Brian Bannister has made some noise this spring training. Heilman who was a stand out at Notre Dame, came into the Mets farm system with great expectations. In 2003 in his first full season in the big leagues Heilman starter 13 games, going 2-7 with a 6.75 ERA. This was after a change in mechanics that made him so successful during college. Peterson then changed Heilman back to his old ways and the results were evident. Last year Heilman went 5-3 with a 3.17 ERA. In 7 starts Heilman was 2-3 last year, but in his most impressive outing of the season held the Marlins to one hit, in his complete game shut out on April 15. If Heilman throws as he did coming out of the bullpen he should be an above average number 5 starter, but if he returns back to his '03 ways watch out. The bullpen is seemingly a better fit for Heilman but he has his mind set on starting. Bannister has pitched superb this Spring with an ERA of less than 1.00. Bannister locates well with his fastball but it remains in the high 80's range. He has a dangerous cut fastball which is considered his out pitch as he can use it against both right handed and left handed hitters. His changeup is a good compliment to this cut fastball, while his slider and his curve ball are works in progress. The fact that he does have such a deep arsenal of pitches is impressive and beneficial as well. Heilman has the experience so the advantage would seemingly be in his favor.

Heilman has not yet been awarded the 5th and final starting spot nor has Bannister, as Omar Minaya said it is up for grabs throughout Spring Training. Others who could sneak in would be Alay Soler, the Cuban defect. Soler went 10-4 with a 2.01 ERA in 18 games last year for the Cuban national team, but might have to miss part of Spring Training due to a conflict with his agent over immigration papers. Yusaku Iriki is another consideration who went 6-7 last year with a 3.35 ERA. Iriki seems to be more open minded about his role with the Mets, "I'm excited to be with the Mets, I can start or relieve. I will try to help manager Willie Randolph however I can." This is probably due to the collectivist feelings in Japan towards baseball, as the team first mentality is truly emphasized, unless of course your Ichiro. John Maine remains another long shot, but will likely be in the bull pen or at Triple A to start the year. Maine remains an interesting piece, as he has drawn the interest of Billy Beane. When discussing a deal with the Orioles last off season for Tim Hudson Beane requested Maine, obviously the deal did not go threw, but if a deal were to be made for Zito, Maine would likely be involved. Mike Pelfrey might see some action in the big leagues, come September depending on how well his acclamation to the minor's is. By '07 Pelfrey will likely be up at the big league level.

All in all the starting rotation is lacking the depth that it possessed in January, but by no means is it weak. Any rotation that includes Tom Glavine, and Pedro Martinez at the front must be considered formidable. With a potent line up the starters should be given great run support, and allowing 4 runs could often result in a win. With a deep bullpen 6 innings might be the norm, as Randolph and Minaya have discussed putting in Julio for the 7th, Sanchez for the 8th and then of course Wagner for the 9th. Whatever the case may be the starting rotation should not hold us back in our pursuit of a World Championship.

Speaking of the bullpen, there has been much effort to revamp it, as it was clearly our achilles heel last year. Our wonderful closer Braden Looper went 4-7, with 5 blown saves as the closer. The first of which came on Opening Day which really ruined the optimism of the very, very young season. Looper finished with 3.94 ERA and opponents were able to hit .271 against him. The Mets were clearly able to upgrade at the closer position, with perhaps their biggest move in the off season when they signed Billy Wagner. Wagner signed a 4 year $43 million deal to close things out for these Mets. In retrospect to Looper's stats Wagner went 4-3 last year, with 38 saves in 41 chances blowing just 3 opportunities. Wagner had a 1.51 ERA and opponents hit a mere .165 against the dominant lefty whose fastball can top out at 100 MPH. But in comparison to all the other balls out closers who just crank back and try and blow it by you Wagner has included an impressive slider to the arsenal which keeps hitters off balance and ranges between 85-90 MPH. The best thing about Wagner is that he improves after the All-Star break in the home stretch, at which time the Mets have faltered greatly. Last year Wagner allowed 3 earned runs and opponents hit .128 against him post All-Star Break. He converted 18 of 19 saves and had a 0.34 ERA. Wagner will represent the most dominating closer the Mets have had since our good old friend Armando decided to erupt.

To take a look back at the 2000 season which was the last time the Mets made the playoffs and we all know how that turned out, we'd be comparing Wagner to Benitez. During that season Benitez appeared in 76 games, converting 41 saves at that time a Mets record, while blowing 5 opportunities. He had a decent 2.61 ERA but was often hurt by the deep ball as he allowed 10 home runs. Opponents averaged a mere .148 against him, as Benitez struck out over 12 batters per 9 innings. But Benitez still had problems with controlling his heat as he walked 38 batters and had a Strike Out to Walk Ratio of just 2.79 : 1.

Now the second most important position out of the pen would have to be the set-up man. Although these guys are often over looked their role is crucial. When a starter has a "quality start" they are go 7 innings. In today's game the closer rarely pitches more than an inning so it's the set up mans job to preserve the lead to get the ball to the closers hand, and last year Roberto Hernandez did that well. Hernandez went 8-6, with 4 saves last year and had a respectable 2.58 ERA in 69 innings pitched. Hernandez compiled 18 holds, while opponents mustered a .228 average against him. Hernandez was perhaps our most consistent performer out of the bullpen so much so that at points Randolph would keep him in to close games rather than Looper. The Mets lost out on resigning Hernandez as he is now a Pirate, but with the quest to improve their bullpen they signed a fellow by the name of Duaner Sanchez.

Sanchez went 4-7 with 8 saves last year, with an ERA of 3.73 while playing for the Dodgers. Although the stats appear to be mediocre he showed great stuff, towards the end of last year. In August when he assumed the closers role he converted in all 8 of his save opportunities while holding opponents to a .188 average. Sanchez seemed indifferent in the deal, but is willing to pitch wherever he is needed. "That's fine with me," Sanchez said. "I'm here to do what the manager tells me to do. It doesn't matter if I pitch in the first inning, the fourth, fifth or seventh. I'm here and I'll be in the bullpen when they need me." Rick Peterson is ready to work with yet another project, as he says "I think Sanchez is ready to take off, I think [when] you look at the experience and career paths of guys and all the factors involved, there's a maturity level. He went on to say "Very few pitchers break into the big leagues and mature when they're real young. It takes a few years to understand how to gain control and manage games." Sanchez broke into the league with the Pirates in 2002 at the age of 23. His best year came in 2004 when he was setting up another dominant closer by the name of Eric Gagne. Sanchez went 3-1 during that year with a 3.38 ERA. He has worked with catcher Paul Lo Duca before, which is only a plus, and seemingly has the work ethic to improve upon his game.

During that 2000 season, our old pal Johnny Franco was traditionally the set-up man. Franco ranks second on the All-Time saves list compiling 424 saves in 1,036 appearances. This was the first time in Franco's career in which he didn't at least split the ninth inning, as the previous year him and Armando were given nearly equal opportunities. Franco was clearly in the decline of his career but was able to be productive as he had a 3.40 ERA, while compiling 20 holds, and saving 4 games. Franco was 5-4, while limiting opponents to a .221 average. During that season Franco's strike outs per 9 innings, was 9:9. In the end this was Franco's last truly productive season in a wonderful career.

Now to take a look at the rest of the rest. Obviously the Mets bullpen is still not set in stone, as the final rotation spot is still up for grabs, but as of right now the major problem that the Mets encounter is that they have one other lefty besides Billy Wagner and that is Royce Ring who is not even guaranteed a roster spot. The Mets truly spent a large part of their off season in order to improve their bullpen. Last year the Mets bullpen changed throughout the course of the season as people were unable to perform or new members were acquired. Royce Ring, Dae-Sung Koo, and Heath Bell were amongst the members to be back and forth between the big leagues and the minors. Bell went 1-3 with a 5.59 ERA last year in 42 games. Ring went 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA but showed signs of improvement as the season progressed.

This year the most controversial deal came in the acquisition of Jorge Julio. Julio was acquired after the Mets dealt former number 3 pitcher Kris Benson to the Orioles. Julio had a 5.90 ERA last year along with a 3-5 record after being demoted from Closer-Set Up Man due to the arrival of B.J Ryan. Julio has never put up great records but from 2002 to 2004 Julio compiled 101 saves with an ERA of 3.65. This deal has allowed many to believe that the Mets will shorten up the starters days, allowing them to go 6 innings, while bringing Julio in for the 7th, Sanchez in for the 8th, and then Wagner to close things off in the 9th of course that would be the ideal scenario, as well as Julio performing up to expectations. Julio has a powerful fastball clocked between 96 and 98 MPH but he has struggle with his control. Again the Mets are banking on Rick Peterson to be able to teach Julio when and where to crank up the speed, and when to back off for accuracy. Unfortunately hitters are able to crowd the plate against Julio as he rarely goes inside which allows for more power the other way on outside pitches. Peterson will attempt to change this mentality as well as to get a consistent release point for the inconsistent Julio.

The other pitcher acquired in that Benson deal was John Maine. Maine is an interesting prospect with great potential and according to Minaya is actually a distant candidate for the final rotation spot. Assuming he makes the roster it will most likely be out of the bullpen. Maine rarely allows home runs as he throws a sinking fastball that ranges from the low to mid 90's. He also throws an impressive slider, as well as inconsistent curve ball and changeups. Although his off speed pitches have great movement he is unable to keep them in the strike zone, something Peterson will surely work on with him. Perhaps the best thing about Maine, besides his youth and potential is the fact that Mr. Billy Beane inquired about him last pre season when talking with the Orioles about Tim Hudson. If Beane still remains interested a trade for Barry Zito could be on the horizon come the All-Star break, Lets hope so.

Yusaku Iriki was acquired from Japan and is yet another candidate vying for the 5th rotation spot. Iriki finished his career in Japan with a .500 record at 35-35, along with a 3.73 ERA throughout his 8 year career. He was a number one pick by Yomiuri in the 1997 draft, but never truly lived up to expectations, similar to another number one pick the Mets just got rid of Kris Benson. Iriki provides versatility for the Mets as he could be used as a spot starter or in long relief help. Chad Bradford is another big acquisition and perhaps only the 4th certain reliever. Bradford was 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA last year in 31 games. His unusual submarine delivery causes problems for opposing hitters, but lefties have seemingly thrives off him as they hit .409 off him compared to right handers who hit just .282 against him. He is mainly a ground ball pitcher who will likely take over the 7th inning, if Julio erupts. If not Bradford will not exactly see extended action, but proves to be a good guy to go to, to get right handers out.

Others that could make the bullpen out of Spring Training include, Steve Schmoll, who went 2-2 with a 5.01 ERA last year, Juan Padilla who went 3-1 with a 1.49 ERA in his 24 appearances last year, Matt Lindstrom, Bartolome Fortunato who is 1-0 in his limited major league career in which he has appeared in 18 total games, Heath Bell, and Brian Bannister. All in all the Mets bullpen is considerably improved from that of last year but it could come at the expense of the starting rotation, as two starters were dealt for two relievers, which is truly perplexing.

The 2000 Mets bullpen included names such as Turk Wendell, Dennis Cook, John Franco, Armando, Pat Mahomes, Rich Rodriguez and Rick White. Turk Wendell is perhaps one of my favorite player's of all time, there was just something about Wendell, besides the fact that he was un hittable in Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball (1995 perhaps?). Wendell would hop over the foul line and often embrace the necklace he worse that was made up of teeth from animals he hunted and killed. Wendell went 8-6 during that season with a 3.59 ERA finishing with 16 holds as he and Johnny Franco often set up Mr. Benitez. Personally I'd take an assortment of the bullpen members with Wendell and Franco setting up Wagner. How cool would it be if the starters would go 5 innings then you'd turn the ball over to Wendell, Franco, Benitez, Wagner now that'd be a bullpen.

All in all the Mets have dedicated themselves to improving their bullpen this off season as it is clear, teams with talented bullpens end up playing in October. A dependable closer is a necessity for any team with championship ambitions, and the Mets have both in Billy Wagner and the expectations set upon this '06 team. If Rick Peterson is truly able to change pitchers for the better, the remainder of the bullpen will not have any major problems and as long as the starters get the job done we will be well off. This season is 20 years in the making and there is no reason expectations or results should stop or flounder due to the bullpen.

With some deficiencies in the pitching staff, our lineup has to be one with great offensive potential, if everyone remains healthy offensive production should not be a problem. Our infield is anchored by youth on the left side of the field, a proven first baseman and a second base competition at hand. At first base the Mets have their first true offensive threat since the days of John Olerude. Carlos Delgado brings leadership, but most importantly a big left handed swing to the Mets lineup. Although he arrived in unconventional fashion after turning down an offer from the Mets last year, he was acquired due to the payroll slashing Marlins. Defensively Delgado is not a lapse as he has a career fielding percentage of .992, granted he won't save Reyes and Wright as often as Doug Mientkiewick did maybe the two have experienced their growing pains. As long as Delgado remains healthy he will put up numbers. His career batting average is .284 to go along with 369 home runs. Teams have put a Barry Bonds-esque shift on him, and he has been patient and going the other way. After an adjustment to his batting stance prior to the 2004 season, his stats flourished, as he has averaged over 35 home runs per year during that span. In comparison to the Mets platoon that played first base last year including Mientkiewicz, Mike Jacobs, Chris Woodward, Jose Offerman, Miguel Cairo, Brian Daubach, and Marlon Anderson, Delgado played in 18 less games, had 60 less at bats but had 26 more hits an average of 76 points better, 10 more doubles, 3 more triples, 12 more homeruns and 53 more RBI. Delgado is a definite upgrade offensively.

Over to the other corner position, where the Mets have one of the most talented young players in the game in David Wright. In today's day and age fantasy sports can often tell how successful believe a player can be, if there's any truth to those indications Wright should be fine as many rank him in the top 20. In his first full major league season last year, Wright bounced around the lineup as Randolph did not want to put excessive pressure on him. This year it seems as if Wright will bat third after he hit .306 last year with 27 home runs and a team leading 102 RBI. Although Wright has played in 229 career games he still has the presence of a rookie trying to make a good first impression. Wright arrived to camp 18 days before required. Ever since he was drafted in the first round of the 2001 draft out of high school, scouts new there was something special about him. His work ethic is un-matched as he continues to put time into his defense as well. At third base last year Wright underwent some growing pains, but most were alleviated by Doug Mientkiewicz. Last year Wright had a fielding percentage of .948 as he compiled 24 errors. Look for an improvement in both categories this year. Wright is able to hit for average and for power off left handers and right handers, look for him to be a presence in the Mets lineup for years to come. One more side note, Wright made just $322,500 last year, someone's due for a raise.

At shortstop we have a healthy Jose Reyes. Reyes is another young gun, from the Mets farm system but with all the time spent on the disable list prior to last year it seems as if he's been here forever. In his first healthy season with the Mets Reyes compiled an average of .273, with 60 stolen bases and 17 triples. The one knock on Reyes is his patience at the plate. He walked just 27 times last year, which upped his on base percentage to .300, which is below where it should be as the lead off hitter. Reyes did show great improvement throughout the season and continued to try to utilize the bunt as an extra dimension to his offense. Defensively Reyes has the natural abilities to become one of the premier short stops in the league. With speed and athleticism to complement a strong throwing arm, once Reyes is able to have complete control over it he will be dangerous. Reyes is able to make the spectacular plays more often then not, but routine plays hindered him a little bit last year. Reyes had a fielding percentage of .974 as he compiled 18 errors. Reyes range factor was a 4.28, this is determined by put outs + assists divided by 9 innings. Reyes has mentally matured as well, this was evident by his ability to go the other way last year. As a switch hitter Reyes often tried to pull the ball but once he attacked the plate with a game plan his production increased. All in all Reyes should be one of the more dynamic players in the league in years to come and as long as he stays healthy he has found himself a permanent home a top the Mets lineup and at shortstop.

Second base is the big question mark. Most people believe it is Kaz Matsui's job to lose but Willie Randolph doesn't necessarily agree. Matsui's career has gone down in a whirlwind. Just two years ago he was the starting shortstop on Opening Day, but after the Mets management finally came to their senses, Reyes returned to short, so Matsui made the transition to second base last year. This year Matsui is fighting for a job with Anderson Hernandez, and Jeff Keppinger, but an injury to his MCL will inhibit him from playing the first few weeks of the season. In his major league career, Matsui is a .265 hitter with 10 home runs and 68 RBI. Defensively he isn't great as he compiled 9 errors for a .970 fielding percentage. Jeff Keppinger and Anderson Hernandez are the youth in this competition. Keppinger has shown great offensive abilities. In his 33 games with the Mets in 2004 Keppinger hit .284. In his three years at the University of Georgia Keppinger hit .380 and struck out just 44 times. Keppinger would've had time to prove himself last year but suffered a knee fracture right around the same time Matsui went down. Anderson Hernandez has shown great defensive flashes and was promoted last year for 6 games while hitting a woeful .056 as he compiled just a single hit. But in extended time at the Triple A level Hernandez compiled a steady .303 average for the Norfolk Tide. As second base is not a position in which offense is a must this competition remains wide open.

Finally our good old friend the catcher, Paul Lo Duca. Mike Piazza will go down as one of the best if not the best offensive hitting catchers of all time and us Met fans truly took that for granted. When Piazza was "slumping," he was still produces much higher than the average catcher but we were just use to the .300 average 25+ HR 100+ RBI season. But Piazza was paid to hit, and he should've but that's now all past news. Lo Duca is as solid as it comes all around. A career .285 hitter, he is so versatile he can and will hit anywhere from the 2 spot down to the 8 spot. He allows Randolph some flexibility with his lineup. Although he lacks power, he rarely strikes out as he always puts the ball in play and utilizes the gaps well. Lo Duca will hit the ball wherever it's pitched as he is just as comfortable going the opposite field as he is pulling it. He is solid defensively as he has a career .991 fielding percentage. His career caught stealing percentage is .331and he has a catchers ERA of 3.73. In retrospect Piazza has a career .990 fielding percentage with a caught stealing percentage of .239 to go along with a catchers ERA of 3.81. Lo Duca is determined to create a relationship with his pitchers and will ultimately help out our staff.

All in all the Mets infield has the potential to be one of the most offensively prolific in the game. In our corner spots we have the offensive production expected, and if healthy Wright and Delgado should combine to surpass the 60 HR mark, and the 200 RBI plateau. If Reyes becomes more patient at the plate his on base percentage will sky rocket which will lead to even more steals. Once Reyes truly learns to utilize his speed by bunting he will be a tough out. At second base none of the options are truly horific offensively and they will most likely occupy the 8 hole anyhow. Defensively nothing below average will be expected. Reyes and Wright will be able to go above holding their own, Delgado is always consistent, and second base well is second base, errors aren't expected there.

The outfielder's should not disappoint this year, as Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd look to add power to the lineup and Xavier Nady and Victor Diaz could provide manager Willie Randolph with offensive versatility. With left field and centerfield set in stone lets take a look at the lone question mark right. Your right fielder traditionally has the strongest arm in the outfield but this will not me the case for the '06 Mets. Willie Randolph has repeated that he will not go with a right field platoon this year so either Xavier Nady or Victor Diaz will be our everyday right fielder. If Nady wins the job look for Diaz to go down to the Triple A. Nady who was acquired for Mike Cameron seemingly has the advantage for that reason, but then again the trade enabled the Mets to cut off a lot of salary as Nady made just $488,000 last year. Nady is extremely versatile and in 120 career games in right field he has compiled a fielding percentage of .970 with 12 assists and a zone rating of .884. In retrospect Diaz has played 92 games in right field while compiling a fielding percentage of .974 with 2 assists and a zone rating of .812. Offensively Diaz has drawn comparisons to an up and coming Manny Ramirez and there should be no complaints there. Originally Diaz was a bit free swinging but once Willie Randolph really got on him about his strike outs his total went down significantly. Last year Diaz hit .257 with 12 HR, and 38 RBI in 89 games. He had a slugging percentage of .468 but he had nearly triple the amount of strike outs as he did walks as he walked a meager 30 times while struck out in 82 appearances. Nady also had great potential as a prospect as he set nearly every single offensive Pac-10 record surpassing Mark McGwire with a .729 slugging percentage compared to McGwire's .718. Last year Nady hit .261 with 13 HR and 43 RBI in 124 games. Nady is still relatively young at 27 but his transition to the major league level was not all that smooth. Up until last year Nady has had great struggles staying off low breaking pitches leading to easy outs for pitchers. Nady especially had trouble making solid contact to right field as he was a pull first type of guy. All in all it's Nady's job to lose and he got off to a hot start today opening up the exhibition season with a home run, either way were not getting Vlad Guerro production out there, but who needs Vlad honestly?

In centerfield we have the highly coveted Carlos Beltran. Beltran started his career out in Kansas City as a September call up in the '98 season, they had some hope he would become the five tool player scouts projected him to be. In 1999 in his first full big league season Beltran impressed hitting .293 with 22 HR and 108 RBI. Beltran went out to win rookie of the year and draw the eye of those outside of Kansas City. Beltran had a bit of a Sophomore slump as he played in just 98 games the following year unable to remain healthy. He hit .247 in 2000. Beltran truly broke out during the 2004 playoffs with Houston as he hit 8 home runs leading them to the NLCS. During that post season Beltran batted .435 as he went 20-46, with 3 doubles, 14 RBI, 21 runs scored and six stolen bases. Big Bucks were sure to follow as he was to test the free agent market that winter. The obvious suitors were to be the New York Yankees, but for whatever reason the free spending Boss never made a serious bid at Beltran. Instead the recently hired Mets general manager Omar Minaya wooed Beltran in with their common heritage. Although Beltran wasn't an immediate hit in New York he had to battle injuries and be the heart and soul of this team. Now that Carlos Delgado is roaming the lineup look for the pressure to be off Beltran and for him to thrive again. Defensively Beltran has a career fielding percentage of .982 in centerfield to along with 75 assists and a zone rating of .905. Beltran can cover the vast Met outfield making up for whatever lapses right field might cause, he has a strong arm to go along with it and is looking to finally display all five tools at the same time throughout the season.

In left field we have our clubhouse leader of sort Cliff Floyd. Last year the Mets were coming together but with Piazza's production decreasing and Martinez in his first season in NY, and Beltran shying away from the spotlight the Mets didn't really have a clubhouse leader. Floyd stood up and took the responsibility that alone could prove more valuable then his production itself. Floyd was the Mets lone power left handed bat in the middle of the lineup as he hit .273 last year with 34 HR and 98 RBI. Last year Floyd had a .992 fielding percentage as he made just 2 errors while compiling 15 assists. Floyd who previously had been hindered by his Achilles heel gained back some later mobility and had a zone rating of .895. Floyd began last season on a tear as he had a .366 average through March and April to go along with 6 HR and 21 RBI. A slow May cooled off Floyd but he was able to regain form. Shea proved to be more friendly to the lefty as he hit .286 there while managing a .260 average on the road. Floyd sees right handers considerably better than he does lefties as he hit .290 last year against right handers while mustering a .224 average against south paws. All in all Floyd is concentrating on this year and not his expiring contract which is rare in this day and age. Although many people believe prospect Lastings Milledge will be roaming left field opening day 2007 lets take it slow. If Floyd has a productive year maybe we'll be able to resign him and stick Milledge in right, what ever it is it is, this outfield will be a potent one offensively and above average defensively.

To go along with these four on the Mets current roster includes Endy Chavez the left hander from Venezuela. Chavez and Tiki Redman are looking to make the Mets as role players.

This 2006 Mets team is one full of potential and high expectations, but unfortunately expectations are not what carry you to October. In order for this to be a season to remember the Mets must start rolling on all cylinders early and often. As long as the starting rotation remains healthy the sky should be the limit for this personable group. Ya Gotta Believe this season is 20 years in the making.


Fri 03/24/06, 5:54 pm EST

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